The Dain Curse

by Dashiell Hammett

“Kill yourself into a hole, and the chances are a time comes when you have to kill yourself out.”

In the author’s second novel the Continental Op feature in Red Harvest is dispatched to the investigation of a few stolen diamonds. He quickly discovers the theft has elements which don’t add up and the heist of the jewels and their eventual recovery are nothing compared to the mystery and murder lying behind it all.

With the same, nameless narrator as the author’s first novel, we might be expecting a similar type of story. But this is much more of a whodunnit mystery than a noir crime novel. The detective remains hard-boiled, but the setting changes from a city where he takes his revenge to a twisting, convoluted breadcrumb trail as the Op seeks to protect a drug-addled girl who’s convinced she’s cursed from those coming at her from every imaginable angle.

It’s a heck of a mystery but has similar pacing issues as the first novel, though in a different order. But it’s clear the Continental Op, this prototype character, had that special something. Mix two parts bitter, two parts humor, three parts manliness, one part holiness, three-fourths a machine and six .38 caliber bullets into a bucket of mud and pour the whole concoction into a suit. That’s something like what Mr. Hammett did, and he pushed forward a character type that will live forever.

“I honestly believe you all afternoon–and it did help me. I believed you until you came in just now, and then I saw–” She stopped.
“Saw what?”
“A monster. A nice one, an especially nice one to have around when you’re in trouble, but a monster just the same, without any foolishness like love in him.”

3+ stars

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